Psychotropic medication use in anorexia nervosa between 1997 and 2009

Int J Eat Disord. 2012 Dec;45(8):970-6. doi: 10.1002/eat.22037. Epub 2012 Jun 26.


Objective: Despite a lack of data demonstrating benefit, psychotropic medications are frequently prescribed for patients with anorexia nervosa.

Method: We studied 525 women (18-54 years of age) with anorexia nervosa who presented to the Clinical Research Center at the Massachusetts General Hospital between January 1997 and December 2009. For this analysis, participants were a priori divided into two groups based on date of presentation (Group I: participants presenting between 1997 and 2002; Group II: participants presenting between 2003 and 2009).

Results: Overall, 53% of participants reported current use of any psychotropic medication; 48.4% reported use of an antidepressant and 13% reported use of an antipsychotic. Twice as many participants in Group II (18.5%) reported using atypical antipsychotics as compared to Group I (8.9%) (p = 0.002).

Discussion: A majority of participants with anorexia nervosa report using psychotropic medications despite lack of data supporting their efficacy. These data are concerning given the known adverse effects of these medications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anorexia Nervosa / diagnosis
  • Anorexia Nervosa / drug therapy*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / epidemiology
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology
  • Antidepressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Comorbidity
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data
  • Drug Utilization / trends
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Massachusetts
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychotropic Drugs / adverse effects
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Failure
  • Young Adult


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Psychotropic Drugs